Wow! It has been so long since the last time we posted something on our blog!! We have missed so many times to photograph for lots of 10 on 10s, to write travel diaries and to report daily happenings of these last few months...that a recap is necessary. 2011 was a year of incredible emotions and great adventures around the world. So we like to remember it with the best images!
1. A tradition: my birthday in London (March 2011)
Since 1999 - the first time that I visited London with a bunch of friends - I fell in love with the UK's capital. It's the most eclectic, never-the-same, always-changing, exciting, amusing, culturally enhancing city in the world for me. It's one of those places in the world where I feel as comfortable as at home. It's for sure, my favorite city...and I have spent there many birthdays and important unforgettable moments. It's physiological: I NEED to go to London almost once a year! Last time I visited it was March 2011 and this is a remainder of that stay. I miss London very much. ;)
What a memorable day!!! I only have good memories of that day. It was the day I smiled the most in my life...in fact at the end of the day my cheeks ached. It was the day that united all together in the same place all the people we love the most. It was so nice to have our friends and family with us for our special day. The setting was just perfect and we couldn't expect something better that what it resulted at the end. The day after the wedding, we woke up in this beautiful old villa and it was like:"After 8 months of preparations...is it really all done? Is the wedding gone?" I still don't know if it was more a sorrow for not having the opportunity to do it again, and again and again (only the wedding day, not all the 8-month preparation!!!!) or happiness for a pain relief...because, to be honest, all that preparation and the expectations for a perfect day were pretty exhausting!! Anyway, after a wonderful in-room breakfast (one of the best of our lives!) and a half day spa treatment with massage for 2...we were ready to leave the villa and get ready for the other big deal of 2011: Honeymoon! :))
3. Honeymoon part 1: The Hampton's and NYC
The first part of our honeymoon was spent at Kyle and Marcus' beautiful mansion in the Hampton's, about 1 hour north-east of NYC. We landed at JFK and took a car to reach them by night. We couldn't expect a better host than Kyle and Marcus: we were SPOILT like never before and we are sorry it was only for a few days. Thank you guys for making us feel so special. We wait for you in Italy as soon as possible!
The next stop was New York City. This was the second time in the Big Apple for us and the city didn't betrayed the expectations: great shows (we went to see the musical "Spiderman: Turn off the dark" and the Cirque du Soleil show "Zarkana" at the Radio City Music Hall), great shops and great museums. In a few words, NYC is the center of the world, where everything is possible. Some of our favorite sightseeings were the walk on the Brooklyn Bridge and the view from the "Top of the Rocks", the panoramic deck of the Rockefeller Center. Last but not least, the experience of being in Time Square by night: it's just AMAZING! All those neons and flash lights on the screen walls...they are hypnotic. You just stand or sit on the newly made red staircase, and you can admire all this reality show around you. Time Square...rocks! We stayed in a beautiful hotel (Yotel), a few blocks from Time Square and moving around by feet was easy. Great location, which we would highly recommend.
4. Honeymoon part 2: Seattle, Vancouver (Canada) and family
The second part of our honeymoon was spent in the northwest, that we love because is where my relatives live and where we feel like home. As soon as we arrived in Seattle from NYC, we decided to sleep in a motel right outside the airport (bad idea, the cleaning was awful!!!) and the next morning we drove up to Vancouver, Canada. It was our first time in Canada and we loved Vancouver at the first sight. We visited the famous Stanley Park and then we had a nice walk around the city center and enjoyed the view of the planes landing on the water of the bay. We also visited the Capilano Bridge park, where we experienced the feeling of being suspended on a cord bridge...BRAVE!
From Vancouver we endeavored a long drive toward south, back to the USA to reach Jeff, Jenny, Wes and all the rest of the Gough's in Long Beach (WA). We were so happy to have the chance to meet Wes for the first time (almost first time outside Jenny's belly!!) and spend some time with this beautiful big family. We felt so loved and they made all the best to celebrate our wedding again with a nice dinner party. During the next days we spent some time at the beach and visited Astoria, OR where the movie "The Goonies" of Steven Spielberg was filmed. The beach here is huge and the monoliths in the ocean are spectacular. Worth the visit! Thank you Jenny, Jeff, Wes and Gough's family to make us feel so special. We loved being with all of you and we miss those days!
The last part of the trip in the northwestern USA was spent in Fox Island, where we stayed more days with Linda, Merry, Traci, Mike, Dylan, Shelby, Taylor and Joe. They were in Italy at our weddings just a few days before, and it was fantastic to meet them again in the US and keep on celebrating. In fact we had the wedding party nr. 3 at Linda's house with a lot of relatives and friends, great food and good company. Thank you all for the incredible effort to plan and realize this party for us. We did feel all the love around us and we miss you all. What an incredible night...and the 3-layer wedding cake made by Merry was AMAZING! We couldn't not try typical american burgers and smores for dessert...love at the first sight (I know, it's not healthy, but they are sooooooo good, but so heavy!) hehehe ;)
5. Honeymoon part 3: Kauai, Hawaii.
I think that the human race didn't invent any words that can even nearly describe the beauty of these islands. They are the paradise on Earth, the most wonderful place I have ever been to...The first island we visited and stayed almost a week was Kauai, and it was love at the first sight. We immediately realized why they call it "Garden island". It's all green, with taro fields and beautiful plants and flowers all around. It's luscious, with beautiful dramatic landscapes, high peaks, canyons, beautiful beaches and the most beautiful sunsets ever. We stayed in a nice little apartment in Poipu, just a few steps from Poipu beach, where we had a lot of fun playing in the waves and bodyboarding. We also loved the northern part of Kauai, with Ke'e Beach voted one of our favorite place on Earth. We had an half day boat tour along the Na Pali Coast, jumping on the waves of the Pacific, admiring incredible landforms of the coast, discovering secluded beaches and snorkeling in a very nice place with lot of colorful fishes and turtles. We had a photo shoot taken in Kauai, right between Ke'e Beach and Tunnels beach. Thank you Jennifer @ Island Echos Photography. Ah! Paradise has a name: Kauai island, Hawaii.
6. Honeymoon part 4: Maui, Hawaii.
After 6 days in Kauai, we moved to Maui for a 4-day stay. We visited some of the south beaches and the nice town of Lahaina where we appreciated the nice art galleries and the restaurants. We woke up at 4 am to see the sunrise at the top of the Haleakala National Park (peak 10.023 ft / 3.055 meters high). We also hiked half day along the trails of the park, descending with a heavy jacket and returning with a swimsuit because in a few hours temperature conditions change drastically. The rest of the stay was spent in a bamboo house off the grid, in a wonderful location overlooking the pacific ocean. Waking up with the view of palm trees and the ocean...is priceless, even if Ely was terrified by the colony of geckos who were living in our bamboo house! ;)
6. Honeymoon part 4: Big Island, Hawaii.
Big Island was another pleasant step in our Hawaii island hopper tour. We spent about another week there, partly on the Kailua-Kona coast, partly visiting the Kilauea Volcano National Park and partly on the Hilo coast. When around Kona, we stayed in a luxury place which was just perfect for honeymooners: The Fairmont Orchid. We had a wonderful room with a garden view terrace where we had delicious breakfasts. The hotel has a wonderful tropical garden, a big pool overlooking the ocean and a white-sand beach with light blue lagoon. We really enjoyed staying there, just laying on the beach and just do nothing...But our adventurous spirits couldn't stay calm for long. In fact we planned a Mauna Kea summit experience for watching the spectacular sunset at the summit of the mountain and then stargazing. We arrived at the height of 4.205 meters ( 13.796 ft), which wasn't easy. You feel strange at that elevation, breathing is difficult, it was really cold especially at sunset and later by night. But the view from there, with the white astronomical observatories in the background, made all the efforts to resist the height worth it. Also the stargazing was amazing: we could clearly see the Milky Way, because over there it's one of the clearest point on Earth where to see the stars. Just for a lucky chance, we were in Big Island right when Jenny's parents Pat and Joe were there for a vacation too. We joined them for a really nice dinner on they terrace in Kona and we spent a wonderful night out with them celebrating again our wedding. Thank you for your warm hospitality Pat and Joe! ;)
The day spent at the Kilauea Volcano National Park was really interesting and we made a lot of walking around the different trails and view points of the Volcano caldera, old lava fields and incredible lava formations that witness the power of one of the most active volcanic area in the world. It was fascinating to experience this place, where the force of the nature shows itself with all its power.
Hilo and the tropical coast of Big Island were also another nice discover, especially the high Aka Aka falls. We can say, we didn't miss anything on Big Island...even an unexpected beautiful rainbow. Check! ;)
7. Honeymoon part 5: Oahu, Hawaii
In Oahu we ended our Hawaiian vacation with style!!! We didn't want to stay in the crowd of Waikiki, so we rented a fancy car and an apartment in Kailua, just a block from the beautiful beach. We did a lot of beach life there and the place was perfect for bodyboarding. We couldn't miss the nightlife in Waikiki and the great shops there. Waikiki is full of daily happenings, street shows, surfers who cross the street to the beach, which is always full of people playing, drinking, catching tan. It's fun to see, but not our cup of tea. Nothing in compares with the tranquillity and the relaxation of Kailua beach and surroundings. So we did the right choice to stay there. Between Kailua and Waikiki we spent a day in the beautiful Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve, where we did a lot of snorkeling and enjoyed to experience a vivid sea life. Another fun day was when we went around the island to find some of the most famous "Lost" filming locations. One of them was the beach where they filmed the camp. As the show has finished, the camp was dismissed, but we could find some airplane pieces and the graves of mr. Echo and some other died characters. Another location we saw was the others' camp, that in reality is a bunch of cabins of a summer camp in the westernmost part of the island. Along the way between these 2 locations, we stopped in Sunset beach and at the Dole Plantation, where we ate the most delicious pineapple ever. Emotional was to visit Pearl Harbor memorial, where we learned more about the attack made by the Japanese who threw USA into the 2nd World War. The summer before we were in Hiroshima, Japan where we visited the Atomic Bomb dome and museum, which was another shocking experience, but it's important to learn from the past to avoid same errors in the future. War is something terrible that breaks lives and brings sorrow and pain in both the fronts. Nobody wins.
We had a lot of fun in Oahu, it was one of our favorite island (even if choose a favorite one is difficult!!!), because it is a mix of all the best that Hawaii can offer: great nature, fantastic beaches with the lively of a big city like Honolulu and great shopping and eating experience in Waikiki, where you really can find everything (Ala Moana is one of the biggest shopping mall in USA!).
During the last bodyboarding session we had, just a few hours before our flight to Los Angeles, Ely had a close encounter with a tropical jelly fish on her calf. She said, it was the most painful thing she has ever experienced in her life. Fortunately she wasn't allergic, but her leg hurt for many hours until our arrival in LA.
Hawaii, we love you! Ti amaiamo, Hawaii!
8. Honeymoon part 6: Disneyland, Los Angeles.
On the way back home, we stopped over in L.A. and spent 3 wonderful days in Disneyland. Fun, fun, fun!!!!
9. December in Morocco :: Our first time in Africa
We always try to find the time to break the autumn/winter season with a vacation in a warmer place. Last year we found a great offer for a holiday in Marrakech and we decided to go! The first impact with Africa is quite shocking, because there are really strong contrasts. You end up feeling guilty to be able to stay in a luxury place and have spa treatments with fruits, camel milk and other stuff while outside you see people living in shacks and children asking for pennies along the streets. As the days pass by, you learn how to approach people and appreciate their beautiful culture and customs. Moroccan people are generous, welcoming, entertaining and kind. Going around Marrakech is like being in a washing machine most of the time: people, animals, cars, motorbikes are all together along the streets, with not a particular order and most of the people stop you because they want to sell you something, take you somewhere (for money), say you something or give directions (for money) or take you a picture with a snake around your neck or a monkey on your shoulder. It's a circus! A wind whirl! Then, suddenly, you find a quite place: an old palace, the seat of a Koranic school, a cemetery of the sultans or a closed park. The souks are very characteristic but are sort of a labyrinth and if you don't go fast, you risk that the sellers of these shops take you in, offer you a cup of mint tea and try to sell you the entire shop! We never felt in danger and people are very friendly (but pushy!), honest and helpful if you are in need. Souks are colorful, crowded, chaotic and you are overwhelmed with exotic odors and tastes. Some products sold in souks are particularly interesting like spices, leather bags, colorful tissues and beautiful handcrafts. The main square, Djema El Fnaa is a world apart. It's a Unesco world heritage site and it's full of people selling food and other goods, snakes charmers, dancers, singers and much much more. It's a unique experience.
After 4 days in Marrakech we left for a 4 days adventure safari in the Sahara desert with a nice guide - Hamou - and a driver with a 4x4 jeep. We passed the Atlas mountain and stopped in Ourzazate, before to go on to Zagora, Tamgroute, M'hamid and the high dunes of Erg Chagaga and then back to Ourzazate and Marrakech. We slept 2 nights in nomadic tents in the middle of the Sahara, we rided camels, experienced oasis and amazing landscapes with red kasbahs in front of snowy peaks in the background. We climbed the dunes in Erg Chagaga and saw the sunset and the sunrise from the there. The food was delicious and the company great. What an unforgettable experience! We loved Morocco, the desert, the people and this will be only the beginning of our adventures in Africa. More to come!!! ;)